Anyone who knows me knows I love seeing a good stage play. I've always been intrigued by those who can take the time and put together a good storyline and play for the world to see. Shaneisha Dodson has done just that. The story behind "I'll Be Single Before I Settle" is nothing short of amazing, and will touch on many things, from child molestation to domestic violence, two things that unfortunately are highly prevalent in the urban community. As much as we try to cure society, these things continue to tear up our communities.
We had the amazing opportunity to talk with Shaneisha about the upcoming play, which will hit the Atlanta area this June. The talk was awesome, and stands as an intro to our talk with her and the cast, which will come together soon when we broadcast LIVE on UGD Live. For now, check out our exclusive!
UG Digital Mag: It's amazing to catch up with you today. I really appreciate your time this afternoon.
Shaneisha Dodson: Oh, thank you so much.
UG Digital Mag: Starting off, before we get into anything about your upcoming play, I would love for you to talk about how you first got into writing, and how that ultimately translated into you writing a play? Obviously, you went to school and have a degree for psychology. Most wouldn't put the two together.
Shaneisha Dodson: I found my love for writing in high school. My English Composition teacher gave me an assignment, and the goal was to improve every time. Each time I did the paper, I earned 100%. It was a narrative, which was a non-fictional story. I thought maybe I was onto something. In college, I worked in the theatre department for a fee waiver. I majored in Psychology though. I wrote my first book in 2004, and from there I continued to write. By 2012, I wanted to see my work come to life. That was how I started Black Girlz Productions. People always ask how Psychology connects. Psychology teaches about the human mind, so it’s very good for character development. It allows you to get inside the heads of the people and make these characters come to life.
UG Digital Mag: You're very well accomplished with all you've done, and I think that's amazing. It's obviously going to work wonders for you in this business. What do you feel like you want to represent personally as a playwright?
Shaneisha Dodson: As a playwright, I want to represent a positive image for African American women. I want people to look at me and say that if she can build a company from the ground up and tour across the U.S., then anything is possible. I also want to represent social change because that is the focus of our play.
UG Digital Mag: Do you feel it’s more difficult because you’re a woman?
Shaneisha Dodson: Absolutely. A lot of times, people say they can’t believe i’m doing this because it’s mostly men who are writing plays. I say we do it too.
UG Digital Mag: What are you doing to spearhead that movement and show that women can indeed do this, and make it so women won’t find it as difficult in the future?
Shaneisha Dodson: I try to tell everyone to do their research, and make sure this is what they really want to do. A lot of times, people tend to follow the trends. You have to make sure you’re passionate about it. Make sure you save your money because plays are very expensive. In this industry, nothing is guaranteed. You may sell out a show today, or the next day you may only have seven people in the audience. Make sure you are passionate about it.
UG Digital Mag: Who are other playwrights that you've studied, and looked up to as you've grown in this profession?
Shaneisha Dodson: I would have to say Shelley Garrett and Tyler Perry. They are two of my favorites. A lot of people don’t know about Beauty Shop. That’s one of the original plays that hit home for a lot of African Americans.
UG Digital Mag: So now, to talk a little about your play that's coming up, this is a story that will bring to light the many struggles of domestic violence. Talk a little about that?
Shaneisha Dodson: "I’ll Be Single Before I Settle”, we opened with that play February 2015 in Little Rock, AR. My focus was on domestic violence. I felt like this was something we needed to address. You never hear about it unless it happens to someone close, or it gets media attention. I wanted to bring awareness to this in a fun way, still allowing people to pay attention and leave knowing that if they’re in a situation, they can get out of it. I wanted people to know it’s not something to be embarrassed about. That was the real purpose.
UG Digital Mag: What other topics are covered in the storyline?
Shaneisha Dodson: We also touch on HIV awareness, and then we touch really quickly on child molestation.
UG Digital Mag: Will you be doing more shows and touring with the play?
Shaneisha Dodson: Yes, we try to tour every two to three months. We’ve had shows in Little Rock, AR; Dallas, TX, Killeen, TX, and Kenner. My goal is to do a black college tour.
UG Digital Mag: Does the cast remain the same for each show?
Shaneisha Dodson: A majority are the same, but we do have under-studies to sometimes fill in.
UG Digital Mag: How did you go about selecting the cast for the play?
Shaneisha Dodson: I do all of my casting via Skype. It’s inexpensive, it’s effective, and it’s a way to reach people across the U.S., and then I’ll just fly them out to the location we’re at.
UG Digital Mag: What did you feel like you were looking for in actors?
Shaneisha Dodson: Each character, I already had in mind as far as what I wanted them to be like, as far as the personality goes, and the type of energy. This character needs to be loud and outgoing, and this character needs to be more elderly, or like a prayer warrior. I already knew the images I had in mind.
UG Digital Mag: How long did it take you to put the story together, and how long has everyone been preparing?
Shaneisha Dodson: I am a writer [laughing], so it doesn’t take me long to write a play. Once I have something in my head, it flows.
UG Digital Mag: Now you started Black Girlz Productions. What is your vision for the company?
Shaneisha Dodson: The vision is to eventually go international and do different work. I’m trying to boost the image of African American women. I’ve traveled to other countries, and often the only image they have is what they see on television, and it’s usually bad. I want to show African American women in a positive light, through community service, professional shows, and doing good things to let them know we don’t all curse and fight. A lot of us are doing good things.
UG Digital Mag: Are there other plays in the vault, past, and future?
Shaneisha Dodson: Yes, our very first one was “Cheating on My Mistress”. We toured with that from 2012 until the end of 2013. I’m currently working on two more pays; one is the First Lady’s Club, and the other is the Vagina Rights, which touches on social issues as well.
UG Digital Mag: Are any of your past plays available on video?
Shaneisha Dodson: No. When we first did “Cheating on My Mistress”, we tried to get it recorded a few times, but it didn’t work out. With this one, we did get it recorded. Once we finish the tour, it will be on sale.
UG Digital Mag: I love a good play so I’m looking forward to it.
Shaneisha Dodson: You would love this one then.
UG Digital Mag: I’m actually considering coming out to Atlanta to see it. Crazy as it seems, I will travel for a good play.
Shaneisha Dodson: It’s very good. Its showcases a lot of new talent.
UG Digital Mag: What do final preparations look like between now and show time?
Shaneisha Dodson: It’s making sure the logistics are in order, making sure all is squared away with the venue, and going out promoting.
UG Digital Mag: Obviously, we're going to reconnect for UGD Live on May 14th along with the entire cast. What final words do you want to leave readers with for right now?
Shaneisha Dodson: For right now, I want them to think of our motto, which is dream big or go home. Anything in life that you want to do, you can do it.
UG Digital Mag: Where can people get you online?
Shaneisha Dodson: On instagram, we’re at @blkgirlz12, and our website is www.blackgirlzproductions.com